images of welfare

My organization is in the process of redoing our website, and one of the goals is for the site to wind up less overwhelmingly text, and with some images.  So I've spent the last hour and a half looking on istockphoto, flickr, and google images for ideas for how to show welfare offices that aren't totally stereotypical.

Ok, I'm obsessing now.  I've been trying to figure out what on earth we can use for TANF and income supports that isn't stereotypical.

Here's a NYTimes article on welfare rolls: they used images of a full waiting room, and of a cubicle with files overflowing everywhere:

This Oregon DHS brochure has a mixture of images/

I really like the picture of a welfare rights rally in the bottom right of this web page.

Any suggestions?

5 Responses to “images of welfare”

  1. Bobbini Says:

    I’d look for photos of people rather than offices/waiting rooms/etc. I’ve used comstock images in a series called “emotions and expressions” that gets away from business-oriented handshakes and people who are smiling broadly.
    Really, though, from a design perspective, inserting photos to break up text is great in print, but just junks up your webpage. If you can open up the page with more white space, you’ll get readability without adding a lot of crud.

  2. JennG Says:

    If you have contacts at a local arts programme or a bit of budget, you can look at illustration too – it’s pricey unless you find someone to partner with (perhaps in the group you’re serving?) but because you can commission a series of images it gives your site a cohesive feeling and you can ask for the portrayals to be the way you’d like (representing various groups). It’s also usually less expensive than an actual shoot, not to mention easier to coordinate.
    Another option is to approach people on Flickr who have images you like – a lot of amateurs are happy to sell you the rights to an image for $50 or so.

  3. bj Says:

    I like the people comment — but there’s a misleading feel to using stock photos expressing emotions — some people (especially people who are not graphic designers) will feel cheated if they’re looking at pictures of people and think they are welfare recipients, and they’re not really.
    Perhaps pictures of food? clothes? other necessary things one buys with welfare? If people are cropped so you don’t see their faces, then the misleading is a little bit less robust.
    But, this is a bigger issue — where graphic decoration/marketing interacts with journalism/photography. Photographers debate it quite a bit. I don’t know the details of your organization or what you’re trying to do with your website, but I’d suggest that dipping too heavily into making it look pretty at the expense of being “true” might not be a good idea.

  4. Imee Says:

    Hmm. Maybe you should use people who are waiting in line (for government help) but are smiling–like they’re glad there’s stuff like that which would help them out during times of crisis.

  5. urbanartiste Says:

    I have to agree with bj. I teach graphic design and have students create brochures for non-profits. The best way to avoid making statements about who is using these services or having people misinterpret visual messages is to stay with logos or things that are being provided or distributed such as food, clothing, etc. How about using basic shapes or colors with text to convey an overall feeling of the service rather than using graphics. Color, font, and layout can be as effective as images and many times people rely too heavily on images. If you want to stay away from a government/public service style I would not use that sterile layout of white background and small, black type.
    If you ever need some graphic design advice or work please feel to contact me. If I have time I do pro-bono work.

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